Friday, May 7, 2010

A Little (Very) Pitchy . . . Again!

We have been sleeping well onboard the last couple of nights. Last night we docked at Port Hawkesbury after a full 12 hours of motoring and sailing with the jib from New Harbour. Our destination today was Ballantyne's Cove or B Cove for short. We got another good early start, and cast off at 5:20. We had about an hour to sail to the Canso Canal Locks and after that we figured we had a short three or four hour sail across St. Georges Bay estimating arrival time at B Cove of 10 or 11 am, or so we thought.

By now we had mastered using the Furuno Marine GPS receiver. The Unit allowed us to navigate along nice straight lines between imaginary navigation marks called waypoints. A waypoint is like an imaginary x floating on the water. On a navigation chart you can mark a point with a pencil and then measure a latitude and longitude coordinates for the point and enter them as a waypoint coordinates in the Furuno. The unit allows you to store a whole string of waypoints called a route. As soon as we approached and got close to a waypoint the Furuno would automatically switch to the next waypoint along the way - very convenient. The Furuno will then tell us how close we are to the line as we sail along. If we wander off the track it tells us how many degrees that you have to change the direction of the boat to get back on the line.

Capt'n Peter's boat also has autopilot which is a marvelous piece of equipment. The autopilot will point the boat in a direction that you enter into it. So you get the direction in degrees from the Furuno to the next waypoint and punch it into the Autopilot. The autopilot takes over control of the rudder of the boat and keeps it on a nice straight track. In ideal conditions the boat would follow the desired track. In reality though there are all kinds of forces on the boat that make it want to go off track, like waves, current and wind. So you have to change the direction of the autopilot to stay on the desired line. The only real way to do that is to make adjustments by feel and keep watching the Furuno to see how much we are off track. This takes some getting used to.

The weather forecast was for force 5 winds with is at the tolerable upper limit for fun sailing so by now we were ready to cross St. Georges bay in a nice straight line. We aimed for a waypoint right across the bay positioned just outside the harbour entrance at B Cove. The Furuno also tells us how fast we are going and how much distance is still remaining to the next waypoint.

With this new capability we set out across St. Georges Bay. It worked like clockwork at first. The wind however was getting quite heavy and was blowing directly against us. The waves were a metre or so at the start, but as we got to the middle of the bay it got quite heavy with waves as high as three metres. We looked at the Beaufort wind scale and estimated that we were dealing with force 8 winds, by the whitecaps and foam. At least we did not have the huge swells of the Atlantic. The boat kept going slower and slower with the wind resistance.

The chop was very steep with short but tall waves. The JAFTICA would climb a wave only to fall straight down on the wave that is rapidly disappearing from under it, only to climb again up the next wave. This really slowed us down. At about 6 nautical miles away from our destination, we were now creeping along at a mere 2 knots. The estimated time of arrival was now 2 or 3 pm. Once we slowed down to 1.7 knots the rudder was becoming very sluggish and ineffective at keeping course and the boat starting to turn away from our destination. We thought maybe that we had caught another lobster trap line at the rudder. Next thing the engine started to sputter and figured that we must be low on fuel. While Peter kept the helm, I took the extra can of fuel and filled it into the tank, and the engine stabilized. The gas cap like on a car is on the exterior of the boat. Even though we were so close to our destination we started contemplating plan B which was to sail with the wind back to the shelter of Canso Strait back all the way across the bay. When headway is zero we are only wasting fuel.

Captn Peter cranked the engine speed up to the top limit which is not always recommended and thankfully we were now close enough to get into some shelter of the beautiful coast line mountains. Pretty soon we were doing 4 and 5 knots as the waves subsided. We got into B Cove around 2 pm.

The overheated engine now caused other problems. The control cable (like a bicycle brake cable) from the helm to the engine seized. And the engine wouldn't stop. By now Wayne and Carol were at the dock to greet us. and with Wayne's excellent mechanical skills the problem was resolved.

We couldn't see any lines in the rudder or propeller so figured that it was just the engine speed that caused the weak steering.

B Cove was an important destination for our trip. We could now repair our topstay and be sailing with all sails again.

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